IFW editor/webmaster Eric Fritzius has just released a collection of his short stories called A Consternation of Monsters. It features ten of his short fantasy/horror stories each containing monsters of various sorts and stripes—a whole consternation of them, to use the collective noun. Our editor/webmaster, coincidentally also named Eric Fritzius, sat down with Eric for an interview about the new book.
1. Can you tell us a little more about your book, Eric?
I can indeed. Thank you, Eric. This is a collection of short horror and fantasy stories that I’ve written over the past twenty plus years. I chose monsters as the unifying theme because that was kind of the common denominator between each of these stories. There’s always something monstrous in them. Sometimes the monsters are more traditional, as is the case of the famous Mothman of Point Pleasant, W.Va. Got a dead one of those that turns up in “…to a Flame.” The angel of death turns up a couple of times, too, usually wearing a plaid sport coat. Other times, though, the monsters walk on two human feet, as is the case in "Wolves Among Stones at Dusk." And, in one story in particular, that also involves Elvis Presley, very much alive, well into the 21st century, the monster is a little more conceptual than physical, but devastating all the same.
2. What was the driving force behind writing this collection?
There was a driving force and her name is Belinda Anderson. She’s my writing mentor, and the author of three collections of short stories (The Well Ain’t Dry Yet, The Bingo Cheaters, and Buckle Up, Buttercup) set in fictional Hope County, W.Va. Through her writing workshops and classes, she's been responsible for setting deadlines for and helping to shape a number of the stories that are found in this collection. More importantly, though, she’s been after me to collect these stories for years. And she finally had to set a deadline to get me to do it, which was for a local author event back in April. Belinda also helped me edit all the stories and get them into final form, so I give a lot of credit to her.
3. What do you want your readers to take away from reading your book?
Well, hopefully they’ll get a few chills from them, as many of the stories are in the horror genre. But they should get laughs too. Almost nothing I write is ever free of humor. And these aren't exactly intense horror stories to begin with--they're more horror lite/modern fantasy stories, as these things go. I’m not a big fan of the kind of gore and cruelty that the horror genre often showcases. I’m more of a fan of stories in the style of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, which often contained terrifying concepts, but few stories that were reliant upon gore or things leaping out at you.
I hope they enjoy their time in my little world. I like to take a page from Belinda Anderson's books, again. She sets many of her stories in the same fictional West Virginia county, and has characters who wander multiple stories across three books so far. I'm also a big fan of world-building when it comes to writing fiction, so most of these stories are set within a basic shared universe. It's a fun method for writing stories that feel like they had a life before the reader arrived and the characters and events will continue on after the final page has passed. A few of my characters carry over into other stories, too, sometimes even after they've died. And there's a character from one story who gets driven into a different story, locked in the trunk of a 1976 Lincoln. Readers will have to follow the clues to figure out that mystery, though.
4. What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on some stories that will appear in future collections. I have a number of short stories that have no fantasy/horror elements at all, which I would like to see them in their own collection. But the ones I’m currently working on are genre stories, some of which are planned continuations of stories begun in A Consternation of Monsters. I don’t want to say which ones, because that feels like a commitment to a sequel, but there are a couple of stories in this collection that leave their main characters in very interesting places. The stories of those characters continue in my head already, so they really should in print as well.
5. Speaking of less fantastical stories, while A Consternation of Monsters is your new collection, it's not the only book you've had fiction published in this year. And your other fiction appearance is not horror/fantasy.
Correctamundo! I also had a short story published in the Diner Stories: Off the Menu anthology, published in March by Mountain State Press. It's a collection of writing--fiction, nonfiction, prose, poetry--on the subject of diners. It was edited by Daniel McTaggart, who has an abiding love for the topic. I contributed the opening story called "Flying Lessons Over Lunch, with Saint Joseph Cooper Tina."
6. I take it there are not a lot of horror/fantasy stories found in Diner Stories: Off the Menu.
Actually, there are two stories with sci-fi/horror elements, and neither of them was written by me. Toddy Ludy and Frank Larnerd have some great stories with horror/sci-fi elements in them. However, while my contribution isn't horror, it does feature two characters who also appear in A Consternation of Monsters. See? World-building.
7. Where can readers learn more about your book and your writing?
My website, MisterHerman.com is the best place to go. I have a weekly blog there, where I write about each of the stories from the collection, telling how they came about. I have also been adapting some of the stories into audio format. However, unlike most audio books that simply have a narrator reading the material, I do that, but I also add music and sound effects. It's a little closer to a radio drama.
I'm releasing these as the Consternation of Monsters Podcast. You can listen to these adaptations right from my website or on iTunes, and they're absolutely free. It’s a good way to get a feel for the kind of stories that are in the book, in case readers would like a free sample. So far I have adapted "...to a Flame" and "Wolves Among Stones at Dusk."
I also have a Goodreads author page, an Amazon.com author page , and a Facebook page for A Consternation of Monsters. My blogs are posted to each of those.
As a bonus, Eric Fritzius is giving away a free copy of A Consternation of Monsters to one of you. All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment on this blog. Next Monday, a winner will be randomly selected and contacted by Jessica Nelson (in the form of a reply to his/her comment in this blog) with further information about how to collect his/her prize.